4 BASIC STEPS IN TEXAS DIVORCE CASES
- Filing the petition
One of the parties must first file a petition with the court called the “Original Petition for Divorce” (along with paying the requisite court fee). This petition essentially starts the divorce process. The appropriate jurisdiction where the petition must be filed will depend on the length of the residence of either of the parties. After the petition is filed, the court clerk will assign a case number.
- Legal notice
After the first party, now known as the Petitioner, files the petition, the other spouse, now referred to as the Respondent, must be provided notice; simply telling the other spouse that a divorce has been filed is insufficient. Depending on the circumstances, the Respondent can either be served-an action where he or she is provided legal notice-or sign a Waiver of Service if he or she has agreed to receive notice. The waiver does NOT mean that the signer agrees to the allegations in the Original Petition, however.
- The hearing
A petition for divorce generally will require at least one hearing to make a final decision on all of the issues in the divorce, such as property and debt distribution, and child custody arrangements, among others. During the hearing, the parties present evidence to the court on their behalf.
However, if the divorce is uncontested and the parties have already come to an agreement on all of the issues, the non-filing party may not need to attend the hearing.
- The final decree
Once the issues are all decided, the final divorce decree is signed. Getting to this step can take months or take very little time if the situation is amicable. However, it’s important to note that many states require a waiting period before a divorce decree is signed. The “cooling off” period in Texas is 60 days. Certain jurisdictions also have stipulations on how long parties must wait to get remarried.